Upon discovering that we are Bible-believing people, those we are speaking with often throw this question at us: "Are you trying to convert me?" It is a very straight-forward question to which we enjoy giving a very straight-forward answer to.
This answer is simply, "No."
Of course, we then go on to explain why we answer this way, and it is usually sounds something like this: It is not our job to convert you. Our desire is to see you come into a meaningful relationship with God, but our job is to simply tell you what the Bible says about Jesus.
In Matthew 28, Jesus himself tells us to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Jesus doesn't tell us to make converts. Instead, he tells us to make disciples. The distinction in these words is this: a convert is someone who is changed, a disciple is someone who is instructed. And while we do desire to see people changed, the reality and the implication of Jesus's word choice is this: it is not within our power to change someone's heart, only the Holy Spirit can do that. It is, however, within our power to teach and instruct about what the Bible says.
In the book of Acts, we often see men teaching crowds, families, and individuals about who Jesus is. Within these moments, the Spirit's presence is evident. One compelling example is that after Peter's first sermon found in the second chapter, we read that the people within the crowd "were pierced to the heart". This piercing was not because Peter delivered the message perfectly nor was it because he was so convincing or charismatic. Rather, it was the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of those who heard the message. After all, in the book of John, Jesus tells us that it is the Spirit who "will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement." So you see, man delivers the message and the Spirit convicts and changes. This paints the picture that we are responsible to open our mouths and share what we know about Jesus, but we are not responsible for people's salvation.
Consider these two examples.
- Peter and the rest of the apostles were "uneducated and untrained men," but yet, they could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard (Acts 4).
- Paul's assertion was this: "I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2).
Without hesitation and without shame, these men were faithful to share with others what they knew about Jesus and what they had experienced by knowing Jesus. And by it, people came to a saving faith.
So, there it is. We share our faith, and we teach the Bible. We don't force, we don't manipulate, and we don't sensationalize. We simply tell others about something that has changed our lives in the hope that they, too, will be changed by it. The truth is, many times, all that we are trying to do is start a conversation. And within these conversations, our aim is to give people the opportunity to think about the Bible, Jesus, and God in a different way. For example, where we live, we find that many people have been told that God is mean, distant, and unapproachable. They are not encouraged to pursue their own relationship with Him, but instead, they have been taught that it is only through the saints and through Mary that they can reach God. This is just simply untrue. But by sharing God's love with them and by explaining that He desires a relationship with them and that He is quite approachable through prayer, we know that disciples will be made and people will be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Years back, in university (in my Portuguese language class, no less), upon expressing my desire to one day be a foreign missionary, I was quickly met with opposition from someone who told me, "There are so many people in the world who have their own cultures, they don't need you coming in and changing their way of life." It was only afterwards while replaying the conversation in my head that I came up with the perfect response: "I don't want to change anyone's culture. I don't even want to change the way they act or live. I just want to tell them about Jesus and give them the opportunity to hear what I have heard. If they change because of the message they hear, it is not my doing. It is the work of God."